While I can’t say that to cuff or not to cuff is “the question” in a fantasy draft, it is certainly one you have to ask yourself. In this age of running backs by committee there are fewer and fewer every down backs to choose from. The day of old when domination by backs like Priest Holmes, Marshall Faulk, Shaun Alexander, etc. is pretty much non-existent now and timesharing is the new big thing. I really cannot blame a team for wanting to keep its/their prize back(s) healthy and on the field longer, but that doesn’t make things any easier on fantasy owners who have to guess where the carries are going each week. In this article we take a look at some of the arguments both for and against handcuffing in ‘09, some things to consider before drafting a cuff, as well as the best and worst backfields to handcuff.
Arguments For and Against
The basic idea behind handcuffing is that drafting a stud running back is just as much an investment in that team’s running game as the individual player. For example, by getting Maurice Jones-Drew this year you are drafting the Jaguars running attack as a whole. And if by chance Jones-Drew was to miss a game, you would have his backup ready to plug in. As a Brian Westbrook owner last season, I can assure you having Correll Buckhalter on my team made things much easier during Weeks 3 and 6 when Westbrook was out. Even though drafting the backup running back is a pick spent on someone you hope to never use, it is insurance. This way if your prize runner goes off the field on a cart due to injury, you won’t be praying for a waiver-wire miracle to get next week’s starter. This also prevents someone else from taking advantage of your misfortune by getting potentially high production out of a player they stole late in the draft or hawked from the waiver wire.
Those fantasy players that are against handcuffing generally feel that it is a wasted pick and roster spot. They believe by drafting solid depth at the running back position, you would have someone else on your roster that could come off the bench should an injury occur. They also feel that in almost every scenario one of these two factors comes into play. Either the dropoff in production from the feature runner to the backup is too large to waste a pick on or the secondary back would have to be taken too high and there is still good value to be drafted elsewhere. While I can definitely agree with some of the anti cuff arguments, I do feel that there are still several examples where cuffing is not only a good decision, it could be the one that helps keep a playoff caliber team from spending the playoff weeks in the consolation bracket.
Some Things to Consider
The first thing you need to look at when handcuffing a backfield is the reserve back. If there is no clear indication of who the second back would be, or the value of the second back in a starting role is less than that of an equal draft pick, then it is not a good decision to handcuff. To simplify this let’s use the 2009 Atlanta Falcons as an example. Michael Turner is a consensus first round pick in non-PPR leagues and his backup is Jerious Norwood.
If the team you are picking from is in a three-back system, such as the Cowboys or Jets, you want to cuff the primary back with the runner that most closely matches their style. I can assure you that if Marion Barber gets injured it won’t be Felix Jones that carries the load. He is best as a change-of-pace back and that is how
Teams to Avoid and Five Must Cuffs
Here are some teams you do not want to consider handcuffing for the 2009 season …
You get the idea. As a closer, here are my five must cuff backs for 2009 …
(if hand injury is non-issue)
2.) Adrian Peterson –